Tag Archives: local food

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks Three and Four (After the Fact) + Some Goals

So, as-you-know-bob, April was Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! As mentioned earlier, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
While the first year I did this challenge (2014, I think?), I was pretty strict about following the rules of the challenge, I’ve been getting less and less hard core about them as time has gone on and I’ve gotten the hang of using a Par System (if you wanna be fancy) to keep preserved foods and dry goods actually moving through my larder rather than building up in stashes that end up taking up a lot of space without getting eaten.
I’ve said, often enough, that “It’s always Eat From the Larder Month at my house” because we spend more than half the year relying on predominantly frozen (or otherwise preserved) produce, and because I learned – my first year of doing this – that brown rice will, eventually, go slightly rancid if you let it sit around for literally YEARS without using it… and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay better to use it up over the course of 6+ months (and drop another $15 for a new 5kg bag of brown basmati when the time comes) than to let it sit for literally years In Case of TEOTWAWKI.
 
So, particularly if you read the first of this year’s EFtL Challenge posts, it’ll come as no surprise that the second half of the Challenge looked much like the first. I continued to buy milk and eggs.
A neighbour gifted me eggs, whipping cream, and a jar of dairy kefir (she’s vegan, but her recently-visiting parents aren’t) so I now have dairy kefir in my fridge again[1].
I made a steak and kidney pie – and discovered that a 2:1 ratio of kidneys:steak is a little too weirdly-floral-tasting for my tastes, and it would have been awesome to cut it with, say, a tonne of mushrooms and some extra onion or something. But here we are. I still have a frozen pig kidney in my freezer, but that’s down from having three, so I’m calling it a win.
I sprouted some mung beans, and may try to do the same thing with green lentils. (My attempts to sprout chick peas have… not worked out so well, but we’ll see if I can get it right…)
I made sourdough bread a couple of times, and it mostly worked, most of the time, and making bread with bottle yeast is still easier and faster, so I clearly don’t have this down pat just yet.
I made a 3L batch of yoghurt, and used 2C of it, in lieu of cream cheese, to make a chocolate cheesecake(!!!) which actually worked!
I used the gifted whipping cream and some more of the yoghurt to make a liver mousse (uh… yesterday. I got the liver, itself, out to thaw at the end of April, but it’s been hanging out in the fridge until last night).
But, for the most part, it’s been pretty business-as-usual around here. There are still h’ors d’oeuvres in my freezer – where they’ve been hanging out since Winter Solstice, if not earlier – that need to be baked and served. There are elements of my larder that got “eaten down” by other people, because there are a few folks in town who needed extra groceries and I was able to go shopping in my freezer/cupboards for them and basically “off-load” a roasting chicken, a lot of frozen veggies, a loaf of home-made bread, some tinned tuna, some garden rhubarb, the last of the brown basmati rice (picked up in October, so it’s just fine thank you), and a variety of Things In Jars (mostly tomatoes) on other people.
 
The biggest thing that’s come up, though, is that vegetables are delicious, and I would like to eat more of them.
So, like, for those of you who’ve got the cash flow to not worry about this? Produce isn’t cheap. Bags of frozen produce are less expensive (usually) than fresh stuff – which is another reason why we use so much of it – but it’s still not cheap. Blessings Be upon my garden – with its rhubarb and sorrel and crow garlic and plentiful dandelions, with its sage and savoury and lovage and (hypothetical, but here’s hoping) raspberries and even its nettles and occasional purslane, with its self-seeded radishes and mustard greens and its volunteer cherry tomatoes – for giving me free produce all summer long, plus enough (we hope) rainbow chard and (sometimes) winter squash to keep feeding us later on, from the freezer. Bless the neighbourhood’s numerous city service berry trees and neglected chokecherries, and the raspberry canes along the alley. Bless the antique apple tree across from my laundromat and the big, chunky crab apples that grace the verges of the rich neighbourhood to the south, for the cider and fruit butter they give us in the Fall.
 
I’ve been planting for the past week-and-a-bit. Adding manure to the garden beds, and digging at least one new one. Putting in a second lovage plant and trying again with thyme, plus adding a few annual seedlings, too.
I’m thinking about how one of the Big Easy Things a person can do to reduce their own carbon footprint is to eat more vegetables.
I mean, yes, I know. The idea being expressed there is “Get more of your calories from plants (rather than muscles)”. But when I think “Eat Less Meat” what I end up thinking is “Eat Less Flavourful, More Boring, Food” combined with “Access Fewer Amino Acids and Start Feeling Dizzy and Having Trouble Thinking Things Through”.
Whereas, if I think “Eat More Vegetables”, yeah, I may be thinking “¼C diced salami[2] + 2C milk and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese split between three+ people” in a meal that’s half rotini noodles, but I’m also thinking “Five or six cups of veggies: Mustard & radish florets, leafy greens, hothouse grape tomatoes, and herbs… This is beautiful, flavourful, and delicious!”
It’s a plate of shredded red cabbage tossed (or steamed, if you want it hot!) with diced apple, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds topped with yoghurt, minced garlic, and a dollop of grainy mustard.
It’s a thin slices of toast topped with mayo, hot mustard, apple butter, garlicky hummus, and a generous heap of sour kraut.
It’s rutabaga, winter squash, beets, onion, garlic, and parsnips (or carrots, or even creeping bell flower root, if you want to go there) roasted with frozen or hothouse bell peppers and walnuts, then tossed with a 2:1 mix of pot barley and black lentils cooked in bone stock, and topped with lacto-fermented radish roots-and-greens before serving.
It’s hothouse tomatoes & cucumbers, sprouted mung beans, slivered crow garlic, and frozen edamame tossed with yoghurt and quinoa (OR orzo pasta, for that matter).
It’s half a cup of liver mouse, 80g of brie or chevre, and a cup of artichoke-mayo-garlic-parmesan dip set out with soda crackers and wine and a spread of olives (or a tapenade made from a tin of same), dried apples, pears & cranberries, roasted walnuts, bell peppers & tomatoes, chokecherry relish, heavy-garlic hummus, and baba ganoush.
It’s all beautiful, flavourful, and delicious.
It’s all appealing and something I would want to eat.
…And it means upping my veggies per person count from 2 servings per dinner-time to something closer to five or six (a serving of most, though not all, veggies is about half a cup).
Which means my budget – in terms of space, but also in terms of money – is going to have to more than double.
Not the most comfortable though, even at the beginning of Free Food Season. But, I figure, at least Free Food Season will give me some time to adjust to this while everything is bright and delicious, and that’s emphatically a start.
 
So.
What was my take-away for 2019’s Eat From the Larder Challenge?

Variety is still wonderful
 
Veggies are delicious and I need (and want) to eat more of them, which is going to cost money, but maybe I can get more perennials going? Perhaps? (Is this the year I try to plant asparagus?)
 
Sourdough bread remains difficult, but I’m better at it than I was. Also, making dips out of various things is a GREAT way to use stuff up. Whether that’s liver and yoghurt or pressure-canned beans and mashed pumpkin… And strips of mediocre sourdough bread make GREAT dippables if you put them under the broiler with some oil brushed over them first. Pro tip. 😉
 
We easily eat two dozen eggs per week in this household. And a solid gallon-and-a-bit of milk. Four and 3/4 litres per week, if you want to get technical and also include the milk needed to make yoghurt once a month. Which is… a lot. I’m more than a little relieved to still have access to these[3] and this is definitely where our food choices are at their most brittle and where a big bag of powdered milk might be a good way to make the (much tastier) liquid stuff stretch farther, or help me make do when it’s not available

 
During the EFtL Challenge, this year, I nearly ran out of flour and short pasta, and did run out of parmasan and cheddar as well as granulated sugar (but we also have tonnes of other options – like honey and maple syrup – to use in place of granulated stuff). I was out of baking powder before I even started, and have been happily using baking soda (and acidic stuff like fruit butters and yoghurt) in my quick breads. Shortbread cookies made with honey instead of sugar are delicious (next up: Making them with a mix of whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour, in addition to the butter and the honey…)
 
I’ve since re-stocked on flour, sugar, pasta, and other dry goods and pantry staples, and will be having a gallon of maple syrup delivered from a friend’s family sugar bush… some time between now and June, probably? Between that and the garden starting (just barely – we’re still on dandelions, crow garlic, and rhubarb right now) to produce veggies, I’m feeling pretty good.

Goals for This Year’s Preserving Efforts
 
Grow winter squash (including spaghetti squash, butternut, buttercup, and two kinds of pumpkin) AND cucumbers up a trellis to make them harder for the squirrels to attack
 
Grow pole beans (and nasturtiums and icicle radishes) in the same bed as the squash.
 
Pressure can a lot of mashed winter squash and/or dice, steam, and freeze it for the freezer.
 
Grow a lot of radishes (again) and lactoferment the roots and greens together (with mustard seed, garlic, and bird chilies)
 
Maybe try growing amaranth (and inter-plant with eggplant and pole beans), because I hear it’s easy to thresh and winnow and because it’s a really nice addition to Pumpkin Soup
 
Continue to sprout various dry beans and add them to salads and stir fries
 
Grow and freeze as many hardy cooking greens as possible (mainly rainbow chard, but also some kind of kale or mustard greens)
 
Buy enough yellow and green zucchini (like 60, unless my own zucchini plants give me a bumper crop) and red shepherd peppers (like 85… which will cost a LOT more, and so maaaaay need to be significantly limited) and eggplant (15, because I’m not expecting a high yield from my eggplants, tbh) to put up a LOT of frozen veggies, so that I’m less dependent on – but not independent from, I seriously doubt – getting veggies from the freezer section of the grocery store.
 
Grow mustard for seed
 
Occasionally pressure can batches of bone stock AND batches of cooked chick peas or other large beans at the same time
 
Wild-harvest local service berries (freezer) and chokecherries (curds and jellies) at the appropriate time.
 
Sow clover seed in the back yard to help the ground fix nitrogen and get it a bit healthier and more able to support other food crops

 
Ha… These goals are ambitious, and some of them (like the amaranth, though I do have the seeds) may not happen. But here’s hoping I’ll be able to meet that 5-6 servings of veggies person plan, and do a lot of it myself.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I find that dairy kefir – at least mine – smells like a mix between old cheddar and blue cheese. I’m not sure it’s supposed to smell like that, but it still smells like a familiar food, so I tend to put it in bechamel sauce to make it taste cheesier, particularly when I’m all out of parmesan and cheddar due to the challenge restrictions.
 
[2] Or a whole cup of tinned tuna, or the half a cup of diced meat you can get off a left-over pork chop or chicken leg. You get the idea.
 
[3] Not long ago, a friend commented something along the lines of “A million different things can be made from a base of coconut, rice, flour, yeast, sugar, cardamom and saffron”. She was talking about Zanzibari cooking. I think my Million Different Things are probably made from a base of eggs, milk, wheat flour, maple syrup, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, and salt. (And, yes, you can theoretically use spice-bush berries in place of both the nutmeg and the black pepper, but I don’t have those. Yet).

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks One &Two (Includes: Pear Velvet Pie Recipe)

So! It’s Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! Full disclosure: Winter 2018-2019 has been substantially easier than winter 2017-2018 (never-mind the year before that one) and we have not been doing the Eat From the Larder challenge literally every other month to the point that the must-have supplies (for me) like all-purpose flour and red lentils are dwindling before I even get started over here. So I’m starting out with more “larder staples” (dry goods) than I’ve necessarily had in years past.
I’m also doing my usual thing where I continue to buy milk and eggs, at normal-for-our-house rates (about 1 gallon of milk and 1-2 dozen eggs per week), because it makes the whole month about a zillion times easier and it means I have something to cook my freezer veggies and jars of preserves with, which makes a big difference.
 
For those who don’t know, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
The first year I did this, I went pretty all-in. And I learned a lot about the bits of my larder that I didn’t really know what to do with (lentils), even though I had them on hand. I found out which pantry staples I tended to avoid (brown rice), and how much I want variety in my diet, even when “variety” is defined as “umpteen ways of making the same 10 or so ingredients taste good, day after day”.
 
It made a difference in how I thought about preserving food: Thinking of preserves as “ingredients” rather than “finished dishes” meant that I started paying attention to how frozen serviceberries are more versatile than serviceberry jam, fruit butters make better additions to quick breads than jams and jellies, pickled veggies and dried fruits can both be used to add acidic brightness to dishes comprised mostly of root vegetables.
It also made a difference in how I thought about my eventual (now a reality!) garden: I want perennial food plants – everything from crow garlic, nettles, and dandelions to rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, and culinary herbs – to be available in my yard, because they start arriving early enough to make a difference in a situation where my end-of-winter freezer is looking bare (or even just boring).
 
Anyway. Here we are in, like… Year Six of this challenge, and it’s the end of Week One nearing the end of Week Two.
 
Confession? I’m not taking this challenge particularly seriously. My lovely wife bought us baking potatoes and fancy cheddar (because she’s lovely, and also because I try to do this challenge in a low-key way so I don’t get any push-back… which I might not even get, but I’m letting the brain weasels have this one). We were invited to split a pizza with a metamour (at our place) a week ago, and I didn’t even think about it before saying “Sure, that’d be great”. AND IT WAS. I bought samosas for lunch on Monday of this week, and probably would have done so a second time if a co-worker at my temp job hadn’t brought in Easter Chili (I don’t even know, but it was tasty) on Thursday.
So, while The Challenge has so far been very easy, part of why it’s been easy is because, on mornings when I’ve slept late (“late” = 10 minutes, but wevs) and haven’t had ready-to-go left-overs in the fridge, I’ve opted to buy something rather than not eat.
So, yeah, I’m cheating.
 
That said: The freezer is still emptying out at a reasonable pace. I made a big batch of garlic-curry hummus (ish… it’s mostly chick peas, but not entirely) and between that and making some artichoke-kale-mayo dip (think spinach dip, if that helps), making “toasts” out of some of my sourdough bread (which is working, reliably, for sandwich bread – hurrah!), opening up a tin of smoked oysters, and putting out some dried fruit, I think I can probably come up with a nice snack-feast for later this weekend.
The fact that the crow garlic and rhubarb (and even the sorrel and dandelions) are coming up in the back yard is making it easier for me to stop hoarding be generous with the frozen veggies. So veggie-heavy meals – like strata ft zucchini, red peppers, kale, garlic, and onion (but very little cheese); or chicken stew ft chard, kale, zucchini, celeriac, onion, garlic, and winter squash – have been a delightful option. We’ve also done a cabbage salad (ft walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with a yoghurt-mustard-mayo dressing) which made for a good next-day lunch as well as a easy, light dinner.
We used up the last of the costco trout the other night, with butter (we are running out of butter) and a little white wine. We’ve got a rutabaga in the fridge, along with a couple of potatoes (all of which are sprouting like heck and which I think I need to put in the ground instead of putting in dinner, but… we’ll see), some Chinese Broccoli and a greenhouse cucumber. (Cucumber salad and a standard short pasta with tuna, frozen broccoli, and bechamel sauce have also featured in the past 10 days of dinners).
I have tonnes of pre-roasted-and-frozen turkey, which I want to start using up.
I have tonnes of fruit butter, too. Which: I found a way to use it up that I really, REALLY like (though, when I run out of butter, I’m in trouble):
 
I made a pie with some of the fruit butter!
 
I’m super excited about this, because I’d been wondering if it would work pretty-much since I put the pear butter up last fall. It’s basically pumpkin pie, except you use a pint of pear butter instead of the 2C mashed pumpkin and 1C brown sugar. You guys. It works so well! Here’s the recipe (which I modified slightly from one like this):
 
~*~
 
Pear Velvet Pie
2C pear butter
1C milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
Blend the heck out of the above.
Pour into one pre-baked 9″ pie shell (DIY or not, crumb crust or short pastry, you do you)
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
REDUCE HEAT and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool
Serve
 
~*~
 
I assume this will work just as well with apple butter or other fruit butters (Nectarine? Plum?), and I’ll definitely be experimenting at least with the apple, because I have so much apple butter it’s not even funny. Like five litres or something.
 
As far as this specific pie goes? Be aware: Pear butter is hella sweet. When I made mine, I put maybe half a cup of brown sugar into the whole batch. Which was like 3-4 litres of pear butter by the time it was all put in jars. So there’s maybe a tablespoon of “additional sugar” in that pint of what is otherwise just mashed pears, cooked down, with a little bit of salt and cider vinegar thrown in. So I’m assuming that, when I make this with apple butter, I may find that it’s not as sweet. (It will be plenty sweet enough, I’m sure, just not as sweet as this).
 
A similar thing that I’m hoping to do is make what’s essentially a cheese cake, but use plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese. It can be done. The consistency will be a little different (somewhere between normal cheesecake and, like, maybe custard?) but I think, especially if I mix in some melted chocolate chips, it’ll be really good. AND I can top it with some of my frozen berries, which should be awesome sauce. 😀
 
Anyway. We’ll see how the rest of this challenge goes. Hopefully things will remain delicious and easy and our food will remain at least slightly varied (there’s going to be turkey stew with pot barley and rutabaga coming up, I do know that, probably another veggie strata and, provided I can get the noodles right, some sort of udon + soup stock + turkey + lacto-fermented chunky veggies thing).
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Persephone Shortbread + Thumbprint Honey Cakes

Hey, all!
It’s time for a food post!
Today I made:
 
Persephone Shortbread
2½ C flour (all purpose wheat)
1C vegan margarine
¼ C maple syrup
¼ C pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
 
Blend into a dough
Form into balls and flatten (if you want to decorate them later) or press with a fork
Place on a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
 
You can decorate these pretty-much however. But a chocolate ganache (melt chocolate chips & coconut cream together – there are a million recipes on the internet) or a glaze like the one below, would be ideal.
 
Pomogranate Glaze
½ C granulated sugar
3 tbsp coconut cream OR hemp milk (in the latter case, at 1 tsp oil)
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
 
Blend over low heat until the sugar liquefies. Spoon (use a tiny spoon) over cookies and allow to cool in the fridge.
 
~*~
 
Thumbprint Honey Cakes
6C flour (all purpose wheat)
3C butter (salted)
1C honey
 
Bring the butter to room temperature (so that it’s reasonably soft)
Blend honey and butter together using beaters, unless the butter is VERY soft, in which case you can use a fork
Add in flour
Blend with a fork (it will snarl the beaters pretty quickly, so better to use a hand tool that’s easy to clear), and then with your hands, until you have a soft dough
Form into 1” balls and drop onto a greased cookie sheet
Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350F
Allow to cool
Try not to eat them all at once. 😉
 
~*~
 
As you may have guessed, I’m not much of a one for fancy shapes when it comes to baked goods. >.> I may or may not do a frosting for the Persephone shortbread (though, if I’ve got red sugar sprinkles, I probably will).
 
The honey cakes recipe is very much my family’s shortbread recipe with honey instead of the more (recently-speaking) traditional icing sugar, in the case of my paternal line and castor/granulated sugar in the case of my mom’s family.
I wanted to give it a try and see what honey would do for the flavor – partly because (even if I can stand by the rest of it just fine) a specific sentence in this utterly ancient post from Rune Soup has bugged me for literally eight years. Are honey cakes actually that bad? Really? – and partly because I’m… weird about food. See below.
 
Flavour-wise, the end result is (surprise) not as hit-you-in-the-face sweet as the shortbread I’m used to, but – maybe because I whipped the butter and honey together first – it’s airy and (maybe not that surprisingly) even a little floral. The honey gives some depth and complexity to the sweetness, too, which I’m enjoying.
 
TBH, I can’t help laughing at myself a little bit. On the one hand, wanting to use frou-frou organic (uh… how do they control for that?) local honey instead of the kind of sugar that my thousand-years-gone pre-Christian ancestors just wouldn’t have had access to. (Yes, yes, I get that the Rich Person’s mediaeval spice chest could have included raw chunks of frighteningly expensive sugar in the 1400s, but you get my drift).
On the other hand… Cocoa, cloves, AND pomegranate molasses? All in one cookie?? (And, yes, maple syrup because (a) it’s vegan, and I wanted a vegan shortbread-type cookie that didn’t taste like margarine, but also because (b) winter contains the seeds of spring, and I’ll be darned if I pass up a food-based metaphor like that).
 
So, like I said, I’m “weird” about food.
On the one hand, I want to cook the way my pre-industrial Scottish ancestors did (uh… except on an electric range, and with central heating and running water…) – because I like fish and game and dairy and lots of greens, and because those things are Good For Me in a food-guide kind of way, and because Ancestor Connection is something that matters to me.
On another hand, I want to have a relationship with the land I’m actually living on – squatter that I am, even if the local folks are nice enough to euphemistically call me a “guest” – which, along with composting and picking up garbage and saying thank you, means eating what grows and thrives here (particularly the naturalized stuff my ancestors brought over that’s – surprise – turned out to be very invasive).
And both of these places produce a lot of berries and bitter greens (yay!), have Actual Winter to contend with, and don’t tend towards fruits loaded with capsaicin (nasturtium leaves, on the other hand…).
BUT
On yet another hand: I drink coffee every damn day, or close to it. Sugar, chocolate & cocoa, earl grey tea, and the various spices found in chai (which… I’m pretty sure the only ingredients in that particular blend that could grow in my neighbourhood are the shredded dandelion and chicory roots) and also pumpkin pie? I use those plenty of those. Salt comes from Windsor, Ontario, and coriander (and bird chilies – entirely thanks to my neighbour) grows in the back yard. But black pepper, tumeric, cumin, and vanilla beans, just for example, really, really don’t.
 
So, on the one hand, I want to get good at making delicious, flavourful food both by using what grows here and by drawing on the foodways of my own ancestors.
Rather like when I started learning how to cook (and enjoy) cabbage, and other long-keeping Product Of Ontario/Quebec produce that was available, raw, in February, I’m now learning how to cook (and, more to the point, BAKE) with more local flavours.
That doesn’t mean I want to give up my fancy imports. I think my wife would go into open revolt if I put a ban on coffee and, frankly, my desk drawer is full of chocolate. I like this stuff. But it’s basically colonization x2 when I’m a white lady in North America buying, say, chocolate, sugar, and tea at prices that are only that cheap/accessible because of colonization and the related sins of poor working conditions, low/no wages, and undervalued currencies.
 
So.
Some of what I do to… reconcile this entirely-self-made dilemma?
I use those not-grown-around-here flavours less often. I sweeten coffee and tea with honey and maple syrup (sometimes) instead of sugar. I use those pomegranate molasses roughly once a year rather than as a routine flavour I reach for. I try not to rely on vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, to say “warm and sweet” or on chilies, ginger, and tumeric to say “flavourful” – even when I have backyard bird chilies & jalapenos available and lots of imported spices,too (I still use them, but they’re not something I rely on).
 
When it comes to savouries, this is pretty easy.
Juniper berries[1] taste like black pepper and xmas trees. Onions, garlic, and mustard seed provide heat or something like it. Cranberries and rhubarb and wine (and beer, and kombucha, and yoghurt, and apples/cider/cider-vinegar, and sorrel, and dill, and sour ruben/kraut, and even dried tomatoes) provide the bright acidity that might otherwise be provided by lemons or limes.
But what I have a hard time with is baking. Fennel seed and anise hyssop can provide a “warm” licorice-y flavour. Maple syrup and maple sugar have some of the same flavour compounds as vanilla, so using it as an alternative sweetener comes with a bit of a flavour bonus. Spicebush – if I can find one in fruit (hahaha…) – allegedly tastes like a mix of black pepper and nutmeg. Fruit – whether that’s pear butter made at Mabon and baked into coffee cake at Imbolg, rhubarb fresh from the garden at Beltane, or Midsummer shortcake heaped with cream and just-off-the-tree service berries – offers all sorts of complexity right along with sweetness and tartness.
 
So it’s not that there aren’t options.
 
But I’m still at the beginning of this particular learning curve, still reaching automatically for the cinnamon and vanilla and black pepper, and it hasn’t become easy yet.
Which, then, brings me to the other thing I do, which is to buy the organic stuff, the fair trade stuff, the “rain forest alliance certified” stuff, when buying the coffee, chocolate, cocoa, and (increasingly, it’s definitely not consistent yet) sugar (I don’t actually know if these folks ship to Canada though, if yes, this is one way to get fair trade sugar at low prices/kg) that I use, particularly when it’s stuff I use every day.
 
So, yes. The cocoa in the Persephone Shortbread is organic & fair trade, and most of the sweet stuff (and the flour, and the fat – butter and margerine respectively – and the salt) comes from Canada. The cloves and the pomegranate molasses aren’t. But this is a better “score” than last year, so I’m going with it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Get them off a tree, not a creeping-type bush, because Savin Juniper – which is one of the low-growing kinds – is poisonous, whereas Common Juniper is just fine.

New Moon – Harvest Moon Begins

The new moon in Libra was technically yesterday. The weekend kicked off with Venus moving into retrograde (through Scorpio until mid-November) and Mercury joined her there as of yesterday (October 10th).
 
It’s, uh… it’s been a weekend. O.O
And a follow-up week – I keep thinking of this song,the line “friends and lovers help me put my armour back together” and how there are a LOT of check-ins and support calls going back and forth across a number of provinces and at least one international border right now.
It was Unholy Harvest last weekend and, along with having a house full of queers (which is, in and of itself, so completely wonderful), there were also a whole bunch of lovely things that went down at the actual event.
I can’t help looking at this part of Liz Worth’s Venus-in-retrograde horoscope for Scorpio:

Sexual healing can also be particularly prominent right now. Venus retrograde can also help to cut through any assumptions we might have about what we think sex is supposed to be. It can help to challenge shame and taboos, and to heal traumas.

 
…and thinking: Oh.
OH.
 
So I have a whole bunch of stuff to chew on about that.
I’m feeling a bit like my Glamour Game was pretty on point, E.G.: I gave a different kind of D/s dynamic a try, one that just happens to involve some solid integration of those “easy to render likeable and charming” and “not-so-easy to render likeable and charming” elements of myself, and it feels like a really good fit (and is now on-going). I did some pick-up play with a near-stranger and it was fun and light and also marvelously intimate, and it was neat to do something like that and feel solidly good about it at the end. I got to re-confirm some stuff with my wife/voluntary-property. So there have been some solid Empress Project achievements going on there.
I’m rather pleased with the whole situation.
 
Garden-wise and Kitchen-wise… things are a bit of a different story.
My house was full of wonderful people for most of the past week. Which is great. But it means that I got home from Thanks Giving with my mom only to realize that those two cloth bags of pears that a friend of mine invited me to harvest from her pear tree a while back… they were well on their way PAST ripe and into liquefying. And so were most of the red peppers in the plastic bag on top of my chest freezer.
So I spent a frantic and flailing late-evening dealing with sticky everything while I made more-impromptu-than-I-wanted-it-to-be cider out of these already-fermenting pears and otherwise cleaned up the worst of the fruit-fly farm in the kitchen.
This morning, I finished pressing the pears, put them through a food mill, and did the same with the saved apples (about 1/3 of which were not so useable, but the rest were fine), and so now I have recently-pasteurized cider cooling on the stove and balsamic-vanilla pear butter (with some apple mash thrown in) slow-cooking in the instant pot, and I am feeling a LOT better about the whole situation.
I also roasted two turkeys and have successfully stripped them for parts, so my freezer has a LOT of already cooked and diced meat in it for me to pull out as needed AND an out-of-town friend passed along a couple of bags of really lovely groceries before heading back home on Monday, so, like… we’re really well-set-up over here right now. (Thanks!)
 
Weather-wise: Things are weird. I want to take note of this because it seems very strange. The temperature is fluctuating up and down in a way that doesn’t feel like typical “dogwood summer” weather. Too humid, for a start, and rather than a week or two of hot, dry weather, it’s more like a couple of days at 18C-25C then a substantial drop in temperature, down to single-digit temperatures and frost warning territory, and then a sudden swing back up again.
I don’t remember (and will have to check) if this happened at this time last year. But it’s concerning, right now, and I’m not sure what to do about that other than to make fermented green tomato pickles and freeze a lot of chard.
 
~*~
 

Next World Tarot (Cristy C Road) - Arsenal (4 of Earth), Connection (2 of Water), Self Sufficiency (9 of Earth), and Safety (10 of Water).

Next World Tarot (Cristy C Road) – Arsenal (4 of Earth), Connection (2 of Water), Self Sufficiency (9 of Earth), and Safety (10 of Water).


 
Onwards! When I do my tarot meditation pulls, I don’t stick to any one type of draw. Sometimes I do a spread, sometimes I shuffle until a card jumps out of the deck. Sometimes I split the deck and draw the two cards in the middle.
This time, I did a bit of a twist on a face-up tarot spread. I pulled four cards, more or less at random, after shuffling my Next World deck and then I went and found a spread that worked with the cards I’d drawn and what I wanted to get out of them.
Liz Worth has a spread for the New Moon in Libra that seems pretty appropriate:

1. What needs to be honoured in my relationships?
2. What new beginning can I create with those I love?
3. What can I do to be heard?
4. What or who do I need to listen to now?

 
…And I’ll probably make use of it to give these cards a second interpretation. BUT that spread I chose for this is a different one. One that feels like a “permission” spread, which is what I’m looking for right now.
The RAIN Spread lays out four cards and asks us to Recognize, Allow, Investigate, and Nurture the results in turn. To that end, a spread that I think is really quite lovely:
 
Recognize: Arsenal (4 of Earth)
I have long understood the Four of Earth to be a card about fear and miserliness, a mix of “can’t share” and “can’t trust”, a card of tenuous shelter that says “Nobody will take care of me, so I must (only) take care of myself!” And that’s relevant here, in the “recognize” position. But the Four of Earth is also a card about structure, a card about getting the hang of Adulting, if you will, about having that Room Of One’s Own in-which to rest and create.
…And that’s relevant, too.
Cristy C Road’s interpretation of her own card touches on the “first tools” of survival that we learn as children, and asks “Is home a sanctuary or a suffocation”.
I think, in this position, the Four of Earth is saying “Recognize the tools you have, but also question whether or not they are the appropriate tools for this particular job”. Recognize that you have an anxious-preoccupied attachment style, recognize that the structure of schedules and routines and Expectations and consistency can help manage those anxieties, but can also feel restrictive or cause problems when life happens and you, or someone else, needs those structures to be flexible and changeable.
 
Allow: Connection (2 of Water)
This is what I mean by “permission”. I’m definitely feeling a significant degree of NRE over here, so… that’s a whole thing.
But, in addition to allowing the connection between my new sweetie and me to grow as it will, rather than holding it at arm’s length, I think this is also a reminder to continue REconnecting and reinforcing the connections I share with my wife, and (on top of this, even) to remember that making short-term intimate connections with near-strangers doesn’t have to be emotionally dangerous if I keep my boundaries appropriately set (a thing that I am getting better at recognizing and managing).
 
Investigate: Self Sufficiency (9 of Earth)
The Nine of Earth is one that I recognize as ripeness, as a card about gratitude and trust, but also about competence and accomplishment. In the “recognize” position, this would be an invitation to notice all the good, all the connections, all the ways of making family, all the potential for trust and mutuality, to acknowledge the ways I’ve helped myself take care of myself. But in the “investigate” position, I think the Nine of Earth is telling me to look into ways to (a) look after myself, (b) show up for My People, and (c) be open/welcoming to the good people and things that are present/developing in my life.
 
Nurture: Safety (10 of Water)
The Ten of Water. It’s not the bliss/wish-fulfillment of the Nine of this suit but, rather, the solid, steady joy that underpins family-connections you know in your bones you can trust and rely on.
The ten of water is my marriage. The ten of water is my closest friends, the ones who have rooms in my heart. This is a call (related to the “allow” card, I’m sure) to nurture, cultivate, and celebrate both the new, and the long-standing, relationships that matter so deeply to me. Dear Gods… Thank you for all of them. ❤
 
If I were to set an intention for this New Moon, based on the cards I've drawn, I would say: Let me welcome what wants to grow with me, let me cultivate what I want to grow.
 
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of short-pose modeling and walking. I think swimming would be a good one for my joints though. I’m being reminded that dancing – even a 15-minute private dance party in my living room – is really good for my body and also my brain. More of that needed, I think.
 
Attention: Paying attention to my now-multiple power exchanges, and checking in with a lot of friends to see how they’re doing.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for, ha, the edit option, since I hit post without even filling this in… Additionally thankful for: Reconnecting with my wife. Being able to talk about heavy things with people near and dear to me. Friends who trust me. The new romantic(?) person in my life (in general, but also) being willing to be very vulnerable with me while giving me the chance to catch up with her a little bit. Friends who give us food. Random messages from people I love telling me they miss me or that they’re glad I’m part of their lives. Quiet days. Cold FX. A freezer full of turkey. A garden still full of rainbow chard. Good house guests who turn up with fancy cheese or who do dishes or who take us out for dinner. Her collar under my hand. A weekend spent with such beautiful, wonderful queers… you guys, my soul is restored. ❤
 
Inspiration: Garden as metaphor is starting to pick up some more steam. I’ve still got two poetry projects to get sorted before I can reeeeeeeeeeeeeally pick that one up again in earnest, but – maybe because it’s autumn and I’m harvesting a lot of things? – it’s starting to ring some bells again. Also, I’ve been reading the Queer Issue of ROOM Magazine, and it’s helping to refill my poetry well. Hurrah!
 
Creation: Still at a low tide on the creative front, though I did manage to write a couple of poems. I’m starting to get itchy for some scribbling, though, and want to make space for a writing date with myself in the very near future (possibly Monday).

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins (New Moon in Leo, Partial Solar Eclipse)

Crab apples, Malus sp. - Photo by Jonathan Billinger - Via Wikimedia Commons

Crab apples, Malus sp. – Photo by Jonathan Billinger
Via Wikimedia Commons
Close-up of deep red crab apples, ready to be picked.


 
I may be jumping the gun a little here, but there have been ripe apples falling off the trees between here and the Redeau river for weeks, so even if the crab apples aren’t quite (quite) ready to be picked by the grocery-bag-full yet (I will be testing this theory tomorrow, while doing The Laundry across from a bunch of city trees, so we’ll see) I’m going to go ahead and call this one Apple Moon.
 
I pulled a LOT of quack grass (and some crab grass) out of the raised beds today. Also, gave the bolting mustard and icicle radishes a bit of a hair cut. I want the seeds, but I also want the volunteer cherry tomatoes and the kale (or is it collards?) and chard to have some breathing room and light access. So a lot of it is now drying (like hay? Ish?) on a bed of as-yet-unflowered new dandelion growth in the hopes that it dries down before I chuck it in my compost heap.
For my efforts, I managed to find one (1) beautifully ripe yellow cherry tomato and one (1) undersized striped zucchini. (I also harvested a very, very woody icicle radish which I slivered – along with shredding the more delicate greens – and added to my current batch of “wild” (ish) fermented veggies.
It’s a start.
 
The veggie ferment, btw, is now in the fridge. It was smelling Not Great – as in “smells like saurkraut is supposed to smell but… also with an over-layer of Ewwwwww” – and putting it in a cooler environment will help the Good Bacteria take over from the not-so-great bacteria in a timely fashion.
 
I’ve got four at-home days coming up, and my plans include doing laundry (finally!), harvesting crab apples and/or heirloom red-fleshed apples (hopefully! If successful: also making crab apple jelly and/or apple butter), setting up a new batch of yoghurt in the instant pot, and digging a lot of sunchokes out of the other raised bed (Thanks, helpful squirrels! I so appreciate the way you replanted literally ALL of those…) with an eye to pickling them in big chunks with some garlic, ginger, and mustard seeds. Maybe some bird chilies as well.
We’ll see how this actually goes though, as the week progresses. I’ve got poetry to submit, word-counts (novel) and further poetry to write, and a couple of things to mend as well, so. We’ll do what we can.
 
I’ve run into a bit of a problem with the yoghurt. I’m not sure if I’m trying to culture too much milk with only half a cup of starter, or if I’m not mixing the starter in well enough, or if I’m over-heating the milk initially, or if I’m waiting too long to transfer the yoghurt to the fridge (unlikely), but… I’m winding up with “thick milk + lumpy bits” rather than the relatively smooth, definitely cultured-all-the-way-through yoghurt that I was initially getting. I’ll take a look around the internet and see what’s what, but if anyone reading this is recognizing the problem and knows how to solve it, do feel free to leave me a comment on the subject.
 
My sourdough bread is… getting more like the kind of bread I want it to be. Which is a good sign. It’s still not as dry as I’d like it to be… I’m not sure if that means I need to cook it for longer, or let it rise in the fridge over night (my current suspicion is the latter), but things went relatively well the last time I made bread, and I didn’t use any “booster yeast” (1/2 tsp of bread yeast added to the initial sponge), so that’s a good sign.
 
My wife and I are going to visit the Twist Fiber Festival in Saint-André-Avellin next weekend. There will be demos. There will be a food tent. There will be art exhibits. There will be a “mini farm” (which… is that like a petting zoo? Or an animal expo? I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out). There will also be vendors and pay-to-register workshops, which I will be avoiding because I have very little cash but a HUGE yarn stash (by my standards) AND access to youtube tutorials. But the plan is, in addition to taking a day-trip, to pick up some manure compost (and maybe some bagged mulch?) and cart it all home where it will sit and do nothing until the fall.
 
My wife and I were chatting about the garden this morning. About how the food forests that I day-dream about are honestly waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay beyond my current scope. My approach to gardening is mostly to ask “What grows here anyway?” and try to make the most of it, coupled with an attempt at planting things so heavily that the plants I want (like rainbow chard or “dazzling blue” flat-leaf kale or zucchini or winter squash or tomatoes, or, or, or…) overpower and shade out the plants I don’t (quack grass, crab grass… actually, that’s about it).
And that technique isn’t really working right now. So I’m starting (and ending up super out of breath… not a good sign) to weed my raised beds a little more intensively, in the hopes of preventing another wild-grass take-over of my food-growing spaces. Here’s hoping I manage to do some good.
 
Oh. I did, indeed, try mixing up a batch of rhubarb wine. Specifically, I took half a batch of my ginger beer, added 2C frozen diced rhubarb, and 1/2 tsp of bread yeast, plus some honey, and let it go for a couple of weeks. Just yesterday I racked it (sort of) and topped it up with a handful of chokecherries (that I mashed and pitted) plus honey, pomegranate molasses, some water, and 1/4 tsp more yeast. I figure I’ll let that sit for another week or so, and then rack it again and shove it into the back of the fridge to age (“age”) for a while. Based on the smell, I’m expecting something that tastes predominantly ginger-y but with lots of fruity undertones. Fingers crossed!
 
On the astrological front. It’s Leo Season. Everybody’s going “Look at me! Look at me!” on some level. Lammas, the first harvest, was a little over a week ago (or about two weeks ago, if you’re doing the lunar version), the nights are getting longer, though the days are still long (and hot), and Eclipse Season is in full swing.
The thing about quarter/cross-quarter days is that, because they happen roughly six weeks apart, they make for good points of reflection.
Liz Worth, who tends to talk about Eclipse Cycles – the multi-year dovetailing of eclipses that chase each other across any specific two signs at opposite points on the zodiac wheel (when the sun, and therefore the new moon, are in one sign, the full moon will be in the other) – recently brought up that Leo and Aquarius are both very creative signs, but that they’re creative in different ways. That Leo wants self-expression and the spotlight (freedom TO), but that Aquarius wants freedom FROM old habits/behaviours/rules that don’t apply or that hold them back. Maybe it’s no surprise that having eclipse energy (transformation a-go-go) in both of these signs, one of-which overlays Imbolg (a time of germination, stretching, hopefulness, and hidden/underground changes) and one that overlays Lammas (a time of reaping what you’ve sown, but also a time for sowing a second crop of short-season, cold-weather-loving seeds. In other words: Building new plans and projects in places where you’ve already seen some results), means feeling the push to make things (changes, projects, splashes) happen in your life.
 
What were you starting to work towards back in February? Now’s a good time to check in with where those projects are at. What kind of results have you been seeing? What do you need to turn under vs what do you need to tend better? What can you build from here-on-in before the Last Harvest at Samhain spins us back into the Root Time of resting and dreaming underground?
Liz suggests the intention/affirmation of “I am ready for my next step”, and offers a related tarot spread to figure out what that might be (it’s at the link, above).
 
Horoscope-wise: Jessica Lanyadoo, over at Hoodwitch, informs me that “There is strength in your willingness to move slowly and with intention, Scorpio”, and reminds me not to rush those changes unless I actually want to haul the same old garbage along with me into my next stages (which… not so much). On a related note, Chani offers this affirmation-scope: “What I am beginning now will grow over the next six months. I confidently pour my energy into what I want to bloom and become. I spend time developing the projects that most reflect my values.” Miriam, courtesy of Radical Tarot’s Tarotscopes, offers this bit of (awkwardly on-the-nose…) encouragement to Scorpios like me:

Oh Scorpio, it’s been a torrential few months. You seemed to be pulled back, dragged through the past, reminded of hurts and anger from several years removed. But even just the past few days have found you realizing that this was more a bow-and-arrow situation, necessary tension building to propel you further than ever before, quite specifically in the direction of hitting the mark where it comes to your passion. […] The magic is in your hands, and pushing past your need to pull away and be secretive will really allow all of this to spark, catch, and take blaze with truly dazzling effects!

 
Which I guess brings me to my Tarot Card Meditation:

The Lovers - Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash): Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.

The Lovers – Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash)
Three colourful, femme sweethearts circle each other, laughing and playful together.


 
On top of being explicitly queer (both in the art and in the write-up), this is one of the most marvelously, deliberately polyamourous Lovers cards I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. I’m delighted to have drawn it for today’s meditation.
It is – as I’m finding a lot of these meditation random-draws are – remarkably relevant to current personal events, and also to that tarotscope from Miriam.
I pulled the card reversed – so this is about me and how I related to lovers-type situations. My relationship with my own desire. My relationship with my own sexuality. My ability to give myself permission to want, and ask for, and experience pleasure when there are other people involved.
I can’t help wondering how deeply this relates to the draw I did when Rampion Moon was full, about creatively engaging in my web of relationships by being willing to take some risks.
 
~*~
 
Movement: Hours of walking, some week-yanking (read: squating for 15 minutes at a time… urgh), but not much else. Plans for later this week to go apple picking in the neighbourhood and out near Mud Lake.
 
Attention: Totally absorbed by my friend’s recently-launched debut novel. Also paying attention to what veggies and fruits I can forage, harvest, and/or buy on-the-cheap-because-in-season. Brought home 3kg each zucchini and roma tomatoes, most-of-which will end up in the freezer, one way or another, for use in stews and pastas over winter.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for the rain that is still falling. For running water and a neighbour who lets me use her hose. Also grateful that said neighbour periodically hands us bags of snap beans or whole fuzzy melons from her much-more-prolific-than-ours garden. Grateful that I know what wild greens I can eat. Grateful for the apple trees that grow across from my laundromat. Grateful for upcoming work that has not been canceled (I had a bit of a scare last Friday but, while my next long-ish office booking has been shortened, I’m only losing two days, which is a BIG relief!). Grateful for a wife who loves me, and says so often. For a metamour who brings us corn on the cob and coconut oil and lends us her car so that her girlfriend (aka my wife) and I can go on day-trips together. Grateful for a second radish crop. For thriving rainbow chard (at last!). For my first home-grown zucchini EVAR and for the first tiny cherry tomato of my year.
 
Inspiration: The above-mentioned debut novel, and the woman who wrote it <3. A rejection letter from a paid market that was, none the less, very encouraging. My wife, who is quite the bad-ass and an astonishing wiz at fixing unfamiliar analogue machinery.
 
Creation: Making some progress on the spite-novel (aiming to make some more progress this Wednesday) and also on the knitted tank top. Made a batch of offering-candles today (beeswax + lard. We’ll see how they do). Plans to make some super-dangling rainbow earrings over the next few days as well.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad.

Full Moon – Rampion Moon Crests (Lunar Eclipse)

Photo by Tomasz Sienicki Via Wiki Media Commons Heavy rainfall on a suburban street. There are mixed coniferous and deciduous trees in the foreground.

Photo by Tomasz Sienicki
Via Wiki Media Commons
Heavy rainfall on a suburban street. There are mixed coniferous and deciduous trees in the foreground.


 
The rains came back! 😀
The temperatures haven’t been quite as astonishingly high and we’ve been getting a little (and sometimes a LOT) of rain most nights, and some days, for the past week.
I hope this continues.
August (coming fast) has historically been thunderstorm season in these parts, and we sure do need them right now.
It’s kind of amazing to watch the second crop of radishes germinate, and the dandelions starting to put out new leaves.
I reseeded my greens bed with rainbow chard, collards, and Tuscan kale, in the hopes of filling in a few empty patches with greens I can throw in my freezer.
The chard that’s been struggling for the past month seems to be doing a little better in the cooler temperatures and regular rains. (I water the garden every day, but ten minutes with a hose is NOTHING like four hours of the entire sky dumping water on you). The soil in my raised beds is still pretty dry below the surface. One of my goals, this autumn, is – after the frost kills everything off, but before the ground is frozen – is to dig a lot of organic matter (like dried up veggie stalks and straw, but also manure compost if I’m able to find some) but, ideally also a lot of absorbent cotton rags (like threadbare old tank tops, for example) way down deep to help retain water in what is still some pretty depleted soil.
I mean… good luck with that, person with back problems who can’t deal with squatting for more than two minutes at a time, but that’s the goal.
In the mean time, I’ve been harvesting mostly-wild leafy greens – purslane, sow thistle, lamb’s quarters, and wild grape mostly – from the back yard and the surrounding neighbourhood and turning them into “wild sour kraut”, which I put on sandwiches and mix into soups.
 
Today I pulled up a bunch of icicle radish (some with nice root, but mostly just for the greens) plus some sow thistle, and I’ll be adding that to my current veggie ferment, which is mostly wild grape leaves (currently the biggest leaves available,which is why). It’ll be a nice, crunchy one, but also a bit more tannic than usual.
I’ve been (buying and) freezing zucchini for a month or so, too, which is nice.
I have to tell you. I know Michael Pollan has some Problems[1], but every time I read one of his books, it does make me think about what kind of food I’m growing (or not), cooking, and eating, and that what I want to be dishing up – stews, pot roasts, and braises heavily studded with winter squash, mushroom, sturdy cooking greens, and garden herbs; pasta dishes bright with chard, young (not nearly so bitter) wild greens, yellow summer squash, cherry tomatoes, and crow garlic; strata baked from sourdough bread, heavily drained labneh (yoghurt cheese), sliced apples or pears, and eggs from ethically-cared-for hens (I wish) – isn’t quite where I’m at yet, even if I’m close.
Basically, I think I need to double the amount of veggies I cook in a given dish, or else cook more than one dish worth of veggies – doing a tomato-cucumber salad to go with the pasta or the pilaf, or steaming some broccoli or winter squash to go with the carrots, potatoes, and cabbage that were cooked in the same pot as the pork and barley.
I admit that the thought of buying substantially more veggies – even frozen ones, which are generally less expensive than fresh – is daunting. But I think it will be better for us, over all, if I can make it happen.
 
I’ve spent most of last week modeling for a five-day oil painting course. It was really nice, and was enough hours that I was able to top up the rent for August, but I’m very glad to be getting my “weekend” now that it’s Monday.
Plans for today include writing this blog post, steaming some zucchini, finally making some candle offerings to my gods and ancestors (those candles are now lit, and I’m quite happy about it), getting a few more greens into the fermentation crock to pickle, and finishing reading that latest food theory book.
It’s going to be an easy day. I hope.
 
I’ve been thinking about ancestors lately.
In part because I’ve been watching half a dozen or so people trying to paint pictures of me, and I see the parts of my face -reflected in their paintings – that come from my various parents, grandparents, and generations further back.In part because I’ve been reading In Defense of Food and the part of what that books says is that “food” is something your more distant ancestors would recognize as such[3].
Cooking with barley rather than rice (not exclusively, granted). Trying to grow my own “kale yard” (which was what the Scotish folks allegedly called the household veggie garden, ’round about the 1600s when we were eating a LOT of wild foods as well) and forage a lot of urban greens[4], is stuff that my ancestors have done. Up until pretty recently (my mom grew up dairy farming; my dad, while he grew up wealthy, also grew up rural and did a lot of fishing for meals). I’m a much worse angler than I thought I’d be (based entirely on childhood fishing trips), but I’m theoretically getting better at gardening and foraging and fermenting, and I’ve been making really good jam and relish for years. And all of this stuff is Family Stuff. My grandparents (my mom’s parents) saw a former garden of mine – something like 13-14 years ago, in a much different part of town – and they were so happy to see me growing food of my own. I’m proud of it, when I’m able to manage to do it, and part of why is because it’s something I learned from them to value and also do.
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn (Egypt Urnash) Left = Three of Water (A trio of intergalactic snake people, entwined and having a jolly good time together). Right = Eight of Fire (A fire-haired video game character pitching a flaming pentacle at the viewer while gaining extra hit points).

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
(Egypt Urnash)
Left = Three of Water (A trio of intergalactic snake people, entwined and having a jolly good time together).
Right = Eight of Fire (A fire-haired video game character pitching a flaming pentacle at the viewer while gaining extra hit points).


 
I drew two cards for my Tarot Card Meditation. The first by just flipping over the shuffled deck and seeing what was on the bottom, and the second by cutting the (now upside down) deck at random and seeing what it “opened” to.
Who I need to be? The Three of Water
Abundance. Pleasure. Love overflowing. (Egypt Urnash).
Discover pockets of joy and comradery. Reconnect with your happiest safe haven. Find peace amid chaos. (Cristy C. Road).
How I need to be the three of water? The Eight of Fire
Courage. Boldness. You’ve got the power-up and some extra lives to experiment with. (Egypt Urnash).
Ignite your passion as you heal with laughter, yelling, song, and dance. (Cristy C. Road).
Who I need to be is an active participant in my web of relationships.
How I need to be that, or maybe what I need to do (action-wise) in order to be that, is creatively engaged and (surprise, surprise) willing to take some risks.
 
Discover pockets of joy and connection. Heal with laughter and song and dance. I kind of feel like this – appropriately, perhaps – relates to the card I drew at the New Moon, which suggested that I needed to get the heck out of my funk, reconnect with my sweetheart(s), and re-engage with joy, instead of staying camped out on the Planes of Desolation and Preemptive Disappointment.
This is like that. Creative engagement and some emotional (uh… I assume?) risks are both necessary for connection with other people, especially if you’re me.
 
~*~
 
Movement: You wouldn’t think sitting still for six hours a day, all week, would be such a strain on your neck and shoulders, but there it is. However! The studio was a ~45 minute walk from the house, so I got in a good hour-and-a-half walk every day, which is nice. Totally skipped going dancing on Saturday, though, due to the 7am alarm clock I’ve been dealing with all week.
 
Attention: Watching the water levels in the garden, the heavy clouds and whether or not they’re likely to spill. Whether or not there are puddles (or even wet pavement) when I get up in the morning. Watching for signs of recovery and new growth in the garden.
 
Gratitude: Grateful for rain. For enough modeling hours to cover the rent. For knowing how to find & harvest leafy greens and fruit (chokecherries, early apples) somewhere other than a grocery store. For libraries. For coming home to clean dishes last night. For a wife who misses me and makes me smile. ❤
 
Inspiration: Watching people learning to mix bright colours into skin tones and figuring out how to make a 2D picture look like a 3D form using lighter and darker shades. That’s pretty cool, and I kind of want to try painting a picture of an egg now. >.>
 
Creation: Remarkably little. I’ve made some progress on my knitted cotton tank top, and have written a few thousand words in my Spite Novel, but that’s about it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad.
 
 
[1] Specifically, he’s a fairly wealthy man, born in the mid-1950s, who lives in an area where you can grow/buy fresh local veggies 100% of the year, and he’s writing for people who are in more or less the same demographic (not actually bad, in and of itself), even if they aren’t in the same part of the world. He has some spots where his understanding of the culture he’s writing in and for gets a little willfully spotty, particularly around the idea of who is most likely to be taking on the extra 2+ hours per day of meal prep that his particular dietary/ethical suggestions require, and what gender they will most likely be. Just because Michael – as a freelance writing who often works from home – does most of the cooking at his place, and has a job that allows him to do so by interspersing those two hours in and around the rest of what he’s doing on a given day… doesn’t mean that’s how it goes in most households in the demographic he’s writing for, let alone, say, Millennials and Gen-Xers, in their 30s and 40s, who are more likely to be “spending less than 10% of their income on food” because they are spending 40%-50% of it on housing[2], and still have to come up with a way to pay for those pesky utilities (y’know, like heat) and crushing student loans while working unstable gig-economy and low-waged service-industry jobs.
His writing doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and sometimes he writes as though it does.
 
[2] In our case, it’s more like 65%, if you were wondering.
 
[3] Which is not stopping me from buying freezer pizza, ice cream, chocolate bars, frozen berry punch from concentrate, or tinned mushroom soup, I’ll have you know.
 
[4] Which tend to be invasive plants brought by my colonizing ancestors, see in particular: rampion and garlic mustard, but also plantain, purslane, dandelions, crow garlic, and lambs quarters.

Fermentation Elation – A Productive Home Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
There’s been almost no rain for the past month, which is not a great situation. The garden is looking pretty crispy, even in the back yard where I’ve been watering every day. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that my soil is depleted enough that it needs some major-by-my-standards remediation. Meaning that – when the heat breaks, and provided I’ve got a spare $20 kicking around – I’m going to try seeding the non-garden parts of the yard with white clover in an effort to at least get some nitrogen back into the ground.
But, for now, I’m relying on my garden for herbs, greens (mostly “weed” greens), and rhubarb. Which is about as productive as it’s able to be right now.
As seen in earlier posts, I’ve been out collecting service berries (see below), as well as wild greens that don’t grow in my yard. But most of the productivity at our home is happening inside the house.
 

 
Inside the house, things are going quite well:
Earlier today, I blanched a bunch of grocery store zucchini (there are another 8 or so in the fridge yet to do) and put them in the freezer, in a silicone muffin tray. I also froze (on a cookie sheet) the last of the service berries, and transferred the latest batch of my fermented wild greens (a litre and a half!) to the fridge, in mason jars. Oh, and I re-bottled the cider that I started fermenting at Winter Solstice.
I put it back in the plastic jug, with a little more bread yeast and some maple syrup for food, to do a technically-third ferment, because it turned out VERY dry and VERY still, and I wanted something fizzier and a little bit sweeter to bring to my mom’s tonight.
Which, I guess, brings me to: I’ve been making booze.
Cider, see above, but also I started a batch of honey-wine a couple of weeks ago, just after Summer Solstice (as seems quite appropriate) and, while it’s a little more ginger-y and a lot less service-berry-y and rose-petal-y than I had been aiming for, it does smell like something I would actually want to drink. So I’m calling it a win. (Here’s hoping it still smells that good after it’s had six months to age in the back of the fridge). I also made ginger beer, which is marvelously fizzy, and which I’ve been drinking heaps of in the hopes of scaring off the sore throat I woke up with this morning. (Seriously… My body’s been kind of a weird barometer these past few months, so I’m hoping this is due to a major pressure change in the night, and not to me getting sick, and that we’re actually going to get some solid, steady rain. Which we badly need!)
I’m thinking I’m going to try making rhubarb country wine – maybe even rhubarb-chokecherry country wine – in another couple of weeks, around Lammas. My goal is to put up a bunch of tasty drinks that I can serve at my Winter Solstice party at the end of the year. 😉
 
In other fermentation news (apparently this is A Thing in my house, now): I’ve made two batches of sour dough bread. I’m still working out the slightly trial-and-error (in my case) process of figuring out how long to cook the stuff, but I’m thinking that third time will be the charm, and cooking it for about an hour and a half should result in some good, tasty, fully-cooked bread that is also easy to cut with a normal bread knife. (I over-baked it and ended up with a very thick crust which, sure, my wife thinks is great, but which I find tricky to do for stuff like sandwiches).
 
Anyway.
Right now? Right now, I’m preparing to do my first experiment in home-dyeing.
I’ve got black beans (which, in theory, will give me a nice blue) soaking on the counter and, on a shelf, I’ve got an old plastic ice cream bucket filled with a mix of water, vinegar, and shredded aluminum foil, in which I am soaking a cotton crop top that I’d like to make bluer than it currently is. (Currently, it’s a kind of faded, greenish pastel turquoise which, while okay, is not ideal).
In theory (in theory) the vinegar will leach some of the aluminum into the water and will mordant the cotton (the vinegar doesn’t really work as a colour fixative for plant fibres, though, I need to use salt for that) so that it will better take up the eventual dye, giving me both a more even AND deeper colour of blue. No idea if it’ll work, but it’s (probably) not going to hurt, so I’m giving it a go.
 
Oh. And I’m knitting a tank top. This is old news, but I’m starting to do the cabling (for shaping) and am knitting in the round and, while it doesn’t look like a shirt (or even a tube) just yet, it’s much closer to being a shirt than it was even ten days ago, so I’m happy about that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.